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  • Renee Anderson

Hook Your Students by Launching Your Lesson with an Imagine Scenario

Fostering student engagement at the very start of a lesson or unit is always a great way to grab your students' attention and interest for what's to come. When you effectively do this, your students are ready to explore and dig-into the upcoming content. One way you can really "hook" your students at the beginning of a lesson or unit, is to start with what I like to call an "Imagine Scenario."

Inspired by Mitch Resnick's "Creative Learning Spiral," from his book Lifelong Kindergarten, I really love sparking my student's imagination for our upcoming exploration and learning. An Imagine Scenario is where you create a scenario the students can imagine they are in. And they think about the lesson as though they are in this scenario or scene. I often create these scenarios by using picture books or video clips/movie clips to set the scene. This is enjoyed by all the elementary grades, as I have done this with students from K-5. Not only is it fun for students, but it's fun for me too!

Here's an example of what this might look like...

In my Continents Exploration Stations, I start the unit off with the following Imagine Scenario using the book Somewhere Else by Gus Gordon:

This is a story of a bird named George who was basically too busy to learn to fly. While he was busy being "too busy" doing all his everyday activities, he realized one day that all of his friends have flown away to have wonderful adventures, except for for he & his friend Pascal. George and Pascal decide to work together to find a way to see the world. And there begins your imagine scenario. As a class, we imagine that we are going to travel the world just like George and Pascal. We imagine and wonder what we'll discover! It's the perfect segue into discovering and learning the continents. Each student then gets a ticket for their Balloon Ride to go see the world. This puts the students inside the story, as if they're a character, just like George and Pascal. They want to travel along with them and see what they can discover. They're hooked! And we're off to our Continent Exploration Stations.

Here's another example using a video/movie clip...

I started off a 2nd grade unit with this movie trailer from the movie Madagascar. And our Imagine Scenario went a little bit like this...

Imagine we are animals from the Central Park Zoo, traveling to Madagascar with our friends Alex the Lion, Gloria, Melman & Marty. Right there, I have the students hooked and ready to explore and learn all sorts of things. Here is a list of some of the things we touched on with just this single Imagine Scenario:

  • World Geography, including Madagascar

  • Transportation to Madagascar - how will we get there

  • Compass Rose, Cardinal/Intermediate Directions

  • A study of the oceans

  • Pangaea, plate tectonics, continental drift

  • Animals & Habitats

  • Tourism & the effect on the community

  • Deforestation and its effect on the lemur population

  • Google Sides, Coding w/Scratch

  • Creating storyboards

  • Writing a story from a lemur's perspective

I can honestly say, this was so fun to facilitate, and the students were engaged every single day!

Imagine Scenarios don't need to be super complex to be effective. They are such a great tool to get students excited about their learning. Think about some of your lessons or units that could benefit from an Imagine Scenario. Think about adding one and see how it goes. Do you do something similar in your classroom? I'd love to hear your ideas...

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